Fighting license proliferation at its core: Mighty and Beastie Licenses

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. roddixon at
Mon Sep 12 18:37:00 UTC 2005

As you suggest, a lawyer and an engineer may view the same problem 
differently and, therefore, come up with different solutions. I have 
noticed that engineers often, but, not always,  refer to issuses by using 
binary values (e.g., verbose or short, "exactly precise" or imprecision).  
I think the goal is for the text of a license to be written as succinct, 
clear, and straightforward as possible.  In my opinion, a license that is 
too laconic or too verbose usually will not meet this goal.

Rod Dixon

...... Original Message .......
On Mon, 12 Sep 2005 10:03:44 -0700 David Barrett <dbarrett at> 
>On Mon, 12 Sep 2005 7:14 am, Chris Zumbrunn wrote:
>> Assuming a license would be drafted well, is it true that "verbose" 
>> means "better for the courts"? The argument in favor of non-verbose 
>> licenses would be that they allow the courts to interpret the license 
>> the way it was intended, as appropriate for the given jurisdiction, and 
>> that non-verbose licenses are less troublesome regarding the 
>> translation to other languages.
>By "verbose" do you mean:
>- long,
>- extremely precise, and/or
>- complicated (to the layman)
>I think we can all agree that a license should be no longer nor 
>complicated than absolutely necessary.  But it seems the question is 
>whether "extremely precise" is "absolutely necessary".
>Given that law is not C and that courts have greater interpretive 
>flexibility than compilers, I think the argument has merit that 
>attempting exact precision might be counterproductive if the same effect 
>could have been achieved -- with less length and complexity -- by 
>relying on the court to resolve the fine details.
>Furthermore, it's possible that in the pursuit of exact precision you 
>might define something in a non-optimal way.  For example, two 
>jurisdictions might have different optimal definitions for "code", and 
>by forcing one in the license it might be disadvantageous in the other.  
>Repeat with changing law, different languages, different precedent, 
>Thus I agree it seems possible that an intentionally and carefully 
>imprecise license might actually be stronger than one where precision 
>was attempted.
>Not being a lawyer I can only guess at the legal strength of the above 
>argument.  But being Joe engineer, I can say that I place a premium on 
>short and non-complicated (to a layman), and if you can accomplish both 
>through selective imprecision, without reducing the strength of the 
>license, then you'll certainly get more of my support.

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